Unhelpful History

We all know myths. But.

Grimly, some myths become treated as if they were factual. Worse still, some myths (masquerading as facts) can even become key parts to examination answers. (You might hardly believe it). That then becomes a real quis custodiet ipsos custodes situation. (I will leave you, generous reader, to work out who might be in need).

A few myths need to be dispelled. Thus (and in no particular order):

01 English Breakfast:

Is a myth.

A real English Breakfast, as eaten by most real English people is toast (a couple of slices)sometimes butterered and with marmalade or jam; croissants; cereal and milk; porridge; fresh fruit – and not all of these in one meal; and not all of these on the same plate…People still drink tea and coffee and/or fruit juice.

Link here too.

Egg and bacon was often for many families, a quick Sunday treat, eaten after church. Egg and bacon could also be eaten for your evening meal one evening a week (although being quite salty it makes you thirsty during the evening).

Bacon also used to be much more substantial a meat until the advent of factory produced bacon stuffed with sodium polyphosphate and other sundry crap; I mean, why sell meat when you can sell water and call it bacon?

02 Afternoon Tea:

Er…No. Not a set meal; and rarely eaten by most of the population, Afternoon Tea was more likely to have been met in houses with staff; then adopted by some seaside holiday hotels. Although, most people would take a cup of tea in the afternoon about 4pm. Children coming home from school might get some bread and jam before their evening meal (just to stave off feeling hungry).

03 Reasons for the Location of the Textile Industry in NW England:

The damp atmosphere of North West England. Not True. The real reason has nothing at all to do with a damp atmosphere that helped stop threads breaking. What utter tosh! The simple fact is that the necessary skills were already there. These skills could easily be adapted. There was already a textile industry based on handlooms already established in these areas. Macclesfield and Middleton wove silk; many other areas spun and wove wool. The industrial revolution was about the coming of machines of mass production that automated the one person process into one on an industrial scale. Plain and Simple. You seriously don’t imagine that in other places in England Wales and Scotland and Ireland that threads broke of their own accord in the street but not around the North West of England? Silly. With the advent of water powered machinery, you built your mill near where you could dam abundant water from streams. With the advent of steam power, you had to build near both abundant water and a coalfield. That is why industry went where it did.

Incidentally, the scale of the textile industry is difficult to grasp now, so here is an often quoted fact (not a myth) from the past: The mills in one town alone (Blackburn, Lancashire), produced ONE mile of cloth every FIVE minutes when the cotton industry was in full flow.

The Textile Industry and mills were in decline from the peak year of 1912. 1933 saw Japan with 24 hour textiles production (Textile mills in England rarely worked 24 hours); much of the skills in the textile industry were gone by the 1980s.

04 Manchester and Rain:

Hmm… It rains considerably less in Manchester than it does in other parts of the British Isles. Info here

05 Piano Fingers:

No such thing. There is no ideal hand shape or finger shape or length or even ideal number of fingers for piano playing.

06 Grammar School entry in England is or was fair:

Wrong. Traditionally, in England, grammar schools took only up to the top 30% of the children who passed the so-called 11-plus examination. In many areas, there were two examinations to Grammar Schools anyway – the 11 plus (taken at one’s primary school) and an Entrance Examination (taken at the school of which one hoped to become a pupil). If a pupil was “hedging bets” and wanted to try for more than one school, he or she might have to take as many as five examinations. The system in Scotland was much fairer, with Grammar Schools (High Schools) taking up to 60% of those who passed the 11 plus (known as the “Qualifying Examination”). Additionally in Scotland, you did not go to High School until you were 12.

07 – Sayings that are misquoted:

– Where there’s muck, there’s money (not “where there’s muck, there’s brass”)

(“Muck and brass” is a phrase used to describe the industry of the North of England, “brass” being a north of England synonym for money)

– The proof of the pudding is in the eating (not “the proof is in the pudding”)

This is an incomplete article. That is a pity. There will be more.


6 thoughts on “Unhelpful History

  1. Oh, I remember this piece you wrote! I learned a lot! Let me say this: My English breakfast has metamorphosed from toast and jam to steel-cut oats and cream ( I wish!). No, I do have oats as many days of the week as possible. Long for childhood’s Cream of Wheat….

    Afternoon tea in Southern Cal? Hasn’t taken hold, yet. Blame Starbuck’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

    English textile mills? Water, coal,…I get it. Interesting and very logical.

    Please send me all the Manchester rain as is possible. And quickly!

    I do not have so-called piano fingers. I was told piano fingers meant long, thin and nimble.
    Enough said. But, I can reach a full octave on my harp!

    tsk, tsk, tsk. English grammar schools have been making American schools look inferior for a lonnnnnnng time. Now it’s Finland who is doing the PR damage. Bummer. We try hard….doesn’t that count?

    Never heard the saying muck and brass. Now the phrase “muck and mire”, yes!
    Really? Seriously? It is far easier to say it that way? I prefer the myth: “The proof is in the pudding”. Don’t they both mean the same thing? Both involve spoons and a palate!

    The guard’s guards are everywhere, I’m afraid. They just don’t make it known. Nosy people in a nosier world.

    1. Thanks for this – as to “The proof is in the pudding” – I shudder a little(!). If proof is only in the pudding, it may be destined to remain unproven; thus, we prove. I am not sure that it can be proved otherwise. (Pudding containing proof) + (uneaten) = Unproven QED.

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